Now I see that while God wants our obedience and does, indeed, bless it, He doesn’t want us to trust our obedience. He wants us to trust Him. Christ is the rock, not our obedience. True wisdom means trusting Him—even to provide our basic needs. As He said a bit earlier in the Sermon on the Mount: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:26)
This past week marked 15 years since my wife and I bought our house—14 years longer than we planned to stay, 14 years longer than we could afford to stay.
We’re now planning to sell our house and move closer to the center of our city, near the Christian schools our boys attend. I’ve been working each weekend, painting rooms and fixing small problems, giving me time to ponder how God has used this house to reveal His providence and to grow us in our reliance on Him.
We bought this house nine months after getting married. It was 2005, the housing market was booming, and people said if we’d been married more than 10 minutes without buying a house, we were throwing our rent money down the drain. (Note to newlyweds: This is bad advice. Don’t listen to it.)
We did something common at that time—we borrowed 100% of the value of our new house, using an interest-only mortgage and home-equity loan—both with adjustable rates. Even at the low teaser rates, we could not afford the monthly payments. But we were also advised by people we trusted that stretching to buy a bit more house than we could afford was a good idea “because housing prices have been going up for 25 years.” I had set aside a few thousand dollars, which I planned to draw from to help make our payments for a year before we sold the house for an even higher price.
Trouble was, the housing market stopped rising. One month before we put it on the market in 2006, prices started to fall. We had it listed, on and off, for nearly two years. We had lots of showings, but since we had little ability to lower the price, we got no viable offers.
I was terrified of foreclosure. Foreclosure meant failure. And failure wasn’t part of my identity—or my view of God. As the oldest son from a Christian family who always got straight A’s, I had unconsciously developed the idea that if I did everything right, followed all the rules, sought out advice, and prayed a lot before making a decision, then surely God would make my way successful. Or, if things went wrong, God would surely get me out of the situation.
But God’s grace, I had to learn, doesn’t usually work that way. He can rescue us from bad situations, of course. But more often, God gives grace to carry us through a hardship. This is how God’s providence usually appears in our lives.